Fredricks takes aim at third and final Olympics

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Eric Schmoldt
Thursday, December 26, 2013

Qualifying for the Olympics sounds stressful.

Years of hard work will pay off for four men’s long-track speedskaters in the 500-meter event when they race at the Trials this weekend at Utah Olympic Park. Those who don’t make it will call it a career or begin working toward 2018.

However, at 29 years of age and with a third Olympics in sight, Janesville native Tucker Fredricks is calm, cool and reflective. He’s declared this the final year of his speedskating career, and he’s out to enjoy every single minute of it.

“I’m just gonna have fun with it,” Fredricks said in a phone interview this week from his home in Utah. “That’s why I skate, because it’s fun. I’ve just got to get back to that. So far this year that’s been working, and I’m having a blast.”

The 2002 Janesville Craig High graduate—Fredricks was back in town for the Homecoming football game this fall—made his first Olympics appearance at Torino in 2006. He placed 24th in the 500 meters.

Fredricks returned to Vancouver four years later, placing 12th. That experience led him to his new mentality heading into 2014.

“In Vancouver, I was too focused on winning a medal,” he said. “I don’t think I was very mentally prepared. I’ve been working on that this time around.”

First things first, Fredricks will need to enjoy a successful weekend of qualifying.

The U.S. Olympic Trials for long-track speedskating runs Friday through Wednesday. Fredricks said he’ll make both of his runs in the 500 meters on Saturday. Fans will be able to watch him race on NBC, which is scheduled to air the competition at 2 p.m. locally.

The U.S. team, which consists of 10 men’s members in long-track speedskating, but just four in the 500, will be selected based off the fastest times combined between each skater’s pair of runs.

Fredricks has experience in qualifying, but it’s been a while.

“I was pre-qualified through the trials for Vancouver, so it’s been eight years since I’ve done an Olympic Trials,” he said. “I’m kind of excited about it, actually.”

In other words, Fredricks qualified for the 2010 Games thanks to speedy times in World Cup performances. With the Trials airing on television, there is no such prequalification this time around.

Thanks to his solid showings on the World Cup front, however, Fredricks sounds confident heading into the weekend.

“I’m pretty comfortable right now; I’m feeling pretty good,” Fredricks said. “I would say I’m just as fast (as in previous Olympic years) and a little more consistent.”

Fredricks already has one World Cup gold medal to his name this year, winning in Calgary.

And at a World Cup event in Salt Lake in November, he skated the 500 in 34.30 seconds. That effort was the fastest of his career, edging the 34.31-second run he put together in 2007 that—at the time—set a national record.

“I’ve been pretty solid through the year,” Fredricks said. “Things are pretty much going according to plan.

“Everyone’s always working on something, no matter how long you’ve been at it. … Right now, for me, it’s more of the mental side and just having fun.”

The 34.30 is the eighth-fastest time in the world this year—just 0.06 seconds off the fastest time—and the second-fastest by an American.

But times aren’t on Fredricks’ mind.

“When I race now, I’m not focused on the time or the placement,” Fredricks said. “It’s more how I skate the race, and if I skate it how I want to, the time and place will be good.”

When put that way, it doesn’t sound so stressful.

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